Unless your finger is cut off…

There is a famous legend of the Zen master who every time someone asked him the secret of his spiritual life and mysticism would raise a finger. Every time people would ask one of this master’s young disciples what his master’s secret was, this young disciple would raise a finger. When the master heard about this disciple he seized him and cut off his finger. The boy groaned in pain and began to run away. The Zen master called out to the boy who stopped, turned around and the master raised his finger. At that moment the boy became enlightened and became a Zen Master.

This powerful legend makes us reflect on whose lives are we living? Some repeat doctrine, dogmas and rituals that were handed down to them without ever questioning them. Others follow authors and speakers and quote them without integrating them in their own lives. They have the words but not the music. Like the young disciple in the legend we all go through a phase of mimicry and imitation. But then we need to be open to the shock treatment of getting our ‘fingers cut,’ ready to stop, look back, be enlightened and find our own symbol and expression of the secret of our spiritual life and mysticism.

The finger that is cut off may be security that comes from family, society, culture, religion and God. The mind with all the philosophies and theologies stops; the heart with all our past experiences stops; and we are now AWAKE and ENLIGHTENED. Our lives become models that others follow or envy!

What is the secret of YOUR spiritual life and mysticism and how will that change the way you live your life? Do you want to be awakened, enlightened and allow people to follow you?

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24 Responses to Unless your finger is cut off…

  1. Miriam Wesselmann,SSND says:

    “Unless my finger is cut off…” urges me to find my truth, my real self, my soul. It calls me to reflect on the reality of being a unique part of the interconnected cosmos with emphasis on unique part. How far have I traveled on my path to individuation while stepping beyond boundaries and being one with all of creation? Do I live in a both/and world?

    • Julie Schap says:

      I’m taking a big chance here by responding after one reading of this new entry.
      So I may respond more than once.
      For me, it has been about two things: accepting God’s love and
      that life is a luminous pause between two mysteries that in themselves are one.
      So I am filled with peace, filled with love, embrace life and look forward to the last breath as a mortal and the first moment of being pure spirit.

  2. Susan says:

    Just learning about the 3 classes of men thru Bridges and I recognized it in your blog. I’m excited.

  3. Louise says:

    Love this.

  4. Dora says:

    Needed that knock I guess. Thank you Paul for always showing me that there is another side to life.

    • Joyce Lang says:

      Thank ;you Dora! It is exciting to see that regardless of how long we embrace Paul’s teachings, he continually forces us to think and re-think so as to grow in our Spirituality!

  5. Judi Buncher says:

    I have to find my own way to express the divine in me. Since I believe in God the creator who thirsts and longs for relationship with me and you, I have to quietly reflect (meditate, pray) continually on what my soul senses God, Jesus and Mary are calling me to. Love, peace and joy. How do I express this in hope that others may join me in praise of the glory of God? This is my finger I suppose 🙂

  6. Kuda Kawazva says:

    Got to find my finger and CUT it. Thanks

  7. claire46 says:

    Thirty years ago, I visited an astrologer in Old Delhi and asked him whether I would ever become one with God. He answered that since I was asking the question I was already on the path.
    At this point in my life, I think my path is that of self-emptying, which is easier said than done. Sometimes it fills me with joy. At others, it has me grumbling like the greying woman I am 🙂

  8. Wayne Thomas Bryant says:

    We each have to find our own way to cope with the mystery of life. No one person, institution or belief can contain all the truth. I have finally come to pray for only three things; Guidance, An open mind to receive that Guidance, and the Courage to put that Guidance into practice. By the way, Guidance has been defined as (G) God; (U) You; (I) I; DANCE.

  9. Mark Etling says:

    How often do we try to deepen our spiritual life by imitating a spiritual master. We can’t imitate their journey. It must be our own. I have to walk my own path, discover God in me.

  10. Lisa says:

    The finger that was cut off reminds me of those “disordered attachments” that will interfere with my true relationship with God, myself and others i.e. fear, selfishness, wanting my own way for starters. To let go of those attachments is painful (thus the moaning of the man running away), but the joy and peace that come are worth the price!

  11. ed says:

    still waiting for the sharp blade

  12. Regi says:

    A rude act for the master to chop off the finger. But the lesson does not evade our attention!. What a deep insight! A flash of lightning for an eye opener! Thank you, Paul.

  13. med7861 says:

    In your book “Just as You Are”‘, in the chapter on ‘finding your identity’ you told the story of the farmer who found a baby eagle and raised him wih his chickens. The eagle thought of himself as a chicken. He was happy, the farmer was happy and the chickens were happy. One day a lover of birds came along and with the farmer’s approval went about showing the eagle that he was indead the king of the birds. The bird soared when he found his true identity. Every minute of every day I encounter the Divine and I am aware more and more of who I am. We follow until we are shown the way. I think it is part of the process.

  14. JoAnn Rulo says:

    I believe life sometimes cuts our fingers by the lessons life itself teaches us. Jesus spoke of a vine that bears fruit, God will prune it so it will produce more fruit. One such period of time in my life occurred about 30 years ago. It was a period of time that even prayer became difficult so I began to spend time simply sitting in God’s presence – a period of 30 minutes of repeating a prayer word and remaining in His presence – the type of prayer I practice daily now. My relationship with the Divine changed and I saw a transformation take place. I saw that in the past my relationship with God had been me – my church – and God but now my relationship was with God and the church I attended was simply the place where I came to spend time experiencing the Divine with others and the communion of oneness in that community. I believe that as our ideas about doctrine soften we can begin to see them not as something to cling to but that they are stepping stones that show us the way – but they were not the way – they only point to the way that is to become our path on our journey. I am comfortable in my traditional faith but I feel free now to find my own path and find the limiting vision created by doctrine has fallen away and although I do not know the way – the church of my tradition has given me the foundation to help me have the courage to follow The One Who Knows.

  15. Udaya says:

    hard way of getting enlightened. BUt it is worth the cost. Than ks Paul for the sharing .

  16. Joyce Lang says:

    Paul, in the winter of my life you continue to encourage me to think and not be satisfied with my spirituality as it is today. I pause to ponder just how many times have I had a finger cut off? How many…shall I say….false gods have I followed and how many paths have I traveled that have (after my finger was cut) revealed other paths, perhaps enriching my spirituality, but not completing its growth? Just when I think I have found the absolute truth you manage to make me continue questioning and exploring. I must say the journey gets more exciting and inviting, yet new discoveries increase the peace in my soul. Thanks again for keeping my relationship with God so prolific and provocative.

  17. Pat Shannon says:

    I didn’t need that finger anyway!

  18. Pat Shannon says:

    I just noted the time my comment is awaiting modertaion. January 29, 2014 at 5:40 am. I am typing as I view my calendar and clock. Here it is January 28, 11:45 pm. Perhaps this site is stationed in India. I wonder. Time is a funny thing too…

  19. Henri says:

    Oh for the freedom of the children of God. Would I be the same tomorrow as I am today? Yes, and, no.

  20. Cathy Zimmer says:

    “Do you want to be awakened, enlightened and allow people to follow you?” What a challenging thought! I’ve never thought about allowing people to follow me, much less anyone wanting to! I guess part of awakening and enlightenment carries with it the realization that others might look to you for guidance in their own life. Thanks, Paul, for your words and the “nudge” to reflect on my own spirituality.

  21. JoAnn Rulo says:

    Benedictine Monk, Willis Jaeger, who is also a Zen Buddhist expert gave a wonderful metaphor that made me think of your blog and I would like to share what he says:

    “Religion may be compared to the moon; it sheds light on the earth but receives its radiant power from the sun. When the moon comes too close to the earth and thrusts itself between the sun and the earth, there is an eclipse of the sun, and darkness covers the earth. The sun may be compared to the Divine. It illuminates religion so as to provide light for the men and women on the path to experience. But when religion takes itself too seriously and thrusts itself between God and man it creates darkness and God is eclipsed.”

    It seems the young disciple didn’t experience enlightenment because he was in the darkness of trying to follow the Master’s method (his religion) and lost the light of the Divine within himself but the Master being very wise cut off that which was causing the confusion for the disciple so that he would see his own experience of the Divine was unique.

  22. Sister Mary says:

    This shocking story made me reflect. Though it was a harsh lesson, the radical teacher knew that good spiritual leaders can’t be imitators. The unique core of a person’s spirit lies deep under the surface, and the fainthearted will continue to impersonate unless something truly memorable steers her or him back to that fundamental, unfamiliar core that is one’s true inimitable center with its gifts and deficiencies – the recognition of which brings opportunities for wholeness and holiness.

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